Saturday, 2 February 2019

Microsoft's best ever product ...

... is a mouse. The Wheel Mouse Optical 1.1A USB Wired. I've been using these for a couple of decades now, and I can really recommend them. I've only ever had one fail.

And, of course, they don't make them any more. It seems to be a rule. When a company makes something really good, they replace it with something. Maybe the current crop of Microsoft mice are just as good, but I'd have to wait a few years to know.

So when I spotted a nest of nine of them in an eBay advert (the picture showed ten), I snapped them up.

While I'm on the subject of input devices - I'm still using the IBM "buckling spring" keyboards that were made in 1983, 36 years ago. There are people reading this blog that weren't born when these keyboards were made. What I like about them, is the feel, and the way that you know when you hit a key, because of the buckling spring system they use. I'm glad to say, I bought six of them 20 years ago, when it was still possible to get them.

You can still get keyboards like them (but without the IBM brand) for about £100.

JetDirect 170X

One of my servers is only there to connect my HP LaserJet 6P.

I've had that HP LaserJet 6P for more than 25 years, and it's given good service all that time. But the only port it has is an old-fashioned parallel port, and computers today don't have parallel ports. So I used an old computer to run the HP.

I tried using a parallel to USB cable, but that didn't work. And then I had an idea. I went on eBay and bought a second hand JetDirect 170X for £19. It arrived today. I plugged it in and powered it up, and pressed the test button, and it told me that its IP address was; presumably that's the IP address that the last user set it to. So I unplugged it, held down the test button and powered it up again, holding the test button down for several seconds. That did a factory reset.

When I rebooted it, it used DHCP to acquire an IP address of, because my whole network uses addresses in the 10.x.x.x range. That's better, and I was able to access it. I tried to use the web interface, but it wanted a prehistoric version of Internet Explorer or Netscape, so instead, I used Telnet.

I disabled DHCP and set the IP address to a fixed value so that various computers would be able to find it. And it all worked!

Friday, 1 February 2019

VAT Update

As anyone following this blog knows, on April 1 we all become April Fools. Because for a lot of people, that is the date (or soon after) that we submit our quarterly VAT returns, and then pay the VAT.

But "Making Tax Digital" is happening, and instead of filling in the form with half a dozen numbers, we have to submit the form electronically. And to do that, you need to get a username and password.

I already have a username and password for VAT - that's how I've been submitting my VAT return for ages. But no. They don't want it to be that easy. I have to make myself a new username and password. And they don't make it easy to discover where you sign up - I challenge you to find it. So here's what I've discovered.

Sign up here.

I haven't signed up yet. They want my UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference number), which I've never needed before, and I'll need to find it.

But there's more. On March 29th, ...

Actually, I don't know what will happen on March 29th, and neither does anyone else, including the 650 Lords of Chaos who are currently starring in the Brexit pantomime. But we're being asked to prepare for "No deal".

In "No Deal",  we are no longer in the EU, but I still have an obligation to pay VAT on sales to the EU-27 countries. Or do I? I don't know, nor does anyone else. I don't pay VAT on sales to Australia, Canada or the USA, so why should I pay other foreign taxes? I don't know.

If I do have to pay VAT to the EU-27, how do I do it? I currently pay via the "Union VAT MOSS" system, but if the UK is no longer in the EU, that won't work. Or will it? I don't know, nor does anyone else.

If it doesn't work, I have to sign up for the  "non-Union VAT MOSS" system in some other country. I had a look at the Irish web site (they speak English there) but that started asking me for information that I don't have.

The Lords of Chaos are incompetent, incoherent and clueless.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Brexit update

There have been more votes.
There have been more attempts to renegotiate.
There have been many factions.

I'm not even going to try to explain it. What I'm seeing is a bunch of headless chickens who don't know where they've been or where they're going.

Plus, we have an MP in jail, but who isn't going to resign because she wants to keep on getting that nice £77,000/year.

What we are seeing here is a synchronised display of incompetence, and of the British Public loses faith in parliament, it won't be because of any future referendum, it will be because we never realised that they were such plonkers.

And I've found out that if we leave the EU, then I can't use the VAT Moss scheme for paying vst to the EU-27 as I have before. I have to join a different scheme, and to do that I have to sign up with some other country (Ireland is my choice, because they'll speak English there)
to pay my VAT obligations to the 27 remaining EU countries.

Except that I can't do that until after March 29.
And my VAT quarter ends on March 31.

These idiots have absolutely no idea what chaos they're causing.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Making Tax Digital

On March 29th, we ... well, I don't know what happens then, and nor does anyone else.

But from April 1, 2019,  VAT returns go digital. No longer will you have to go to the HMRC web site and type in five numbers. Now, it's going to be made digital! Which means that instead of typing in these five numbers, I have to use an accounting system that automatically transfers these five numbers to the HMRC system.

I doubt if many small traders are ready for this. Or even know about it. With any luck, the accounting package they currently use, will do this for them; for example Sage and Quickbooks will. But what about those of us who use custom systems?

I've been worrying about this, and with the deadline coming up, I've done some serious research, and it turns out that it's not going to be a big problem.

Various packages are available, costing anything from £216 per year down to £15/year.  Taxoptimiser will do it for free for the first year, £30/year thereafter. But there's even better news. will do it for free. I've signed up for their service, I found where to go to do the tax returns, and it looks easy.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Strange spam

From: Rosie L. Ashton <>
To: {redacted}
Subject: Up to date emergency exit map
   1 Shown    ~9 lines  Text
   2   OK    ~20 lines  Text

Hi All,
Please find below the Up to date emergency exit map.

Emergency exit map.

Rosie L. Ashton,
Estate Management

A very strange spam. There was nothing enclosed, no product on offer. So I looked deeper, and the "Emergency exit map" is a link to a web site which I'm not going to visit.

Beware of what you click on!

Now listen ...

My hearing isn't too good. I have trouble when there's a lot of noise going on and I cant focus on the conversation, especially when people aren't facing me when I talk.

I had a hearing test, but they said I was fine. So - hearing aid?

I decided on something more drastic; a unidirectional microphone with a paraboloid reflector (which will help with the unidirectionality), with an amplifier. And a filter for high/low frequency sound.

This sounds expensive - a good digital hearing aid can be well over £1000. But this wasn't. £20 got me a device that is used for listening to birdsong at a distance, and as a bonus, it can record what you hear.

And it works!

I can't wait for the next time I go out with the family to a restaurant, and I bring out this device.